“I was four when my father went off to war,” says Jane Yolen at the beginning of her gentle story set during World War II. Even though it portrays sixty-year-old events, the book isn’t dated, but emphasizes the universality of the experiences of any small child whose parent deploys. Janie’s father is gone and she reports in a matter of fact way that her mother gets sad, “Mama who cried all the way home” and “The next morning Mama didn’t get up”. But the rhythms of her child’s life continue when she is told off for an illicit swim in Chesapeake Bay and gets a bath and a comforting story before bed:
“We both got a story at bedtime.
Once upon a time, it began;
Happily ever after, it ended.”
Two years later her father returns and her little brother has grown into a toddler. The little boy doesn’t recognize his own father and says, “Go away you bad man. Don’t touch my mama.” This can still be a painful occurrence for deployed parents of very small children.
Large muted and soft-washed water color illustrations underscore the serene story. Based on Jane Yolen’s own childhood, All Those Secrets of the World could have descended into nostalgia but coming from the pen of Award Winning Jane Yolen, it captures deployed existence for a small child, as they have no idea of the reasons for any war, and a shaky knowledge of the geography and the distances involved. All they know is that a parent leaves and returns for ungraspable reasons.
Check the WRL catalog for All Those Secrets of the World.